The Chicago Marathon has been a goal of mine since I moved to the city about a year ago. At that time, though, it was too late to register and I was overwhelmed by this new life and a new city – not to mention that I was still within my first year of readjusting to life beyond Peace Corps, and it was all the emotions all the time. It just wasn’t the right time for me, but when I watched the marathon to cheer on friends (and creep on my favorite running blogger) my goal became a must.
But, for some reason, I couldn’t just run the marathon. I needed a reason.
Running is a lonely sport and, for years, I thought I preferred it that way. Running is my meditation, my alone time, but all that time in my head can be unhealthy. I’ve told myself over and over that I would join a running group through Meet Up or a local running store, but I was never able to work up the courage to go. I was afraid that I would be the slowest and the other runners would see through my running fakingness. But, I knew this marathon cycle would be long and arduous, and I really wanted to meet more running friends. Running the marathon for a charity felt like a good way to do that. For that reason, along with others that I will discuss on the blog in the future, I decided to run the marathon with Team World Vision.
I signed up to be a part of a team, but it took me more than two months to attend a team run. TMV holds Saturday runs each week, which I was reminded of through an email every Monday, but I always found reasons not to go. They were excuses trying to mask the fear that maybe I wouldn’t fit in, that I would be too slow, and that I wouldn’t find that connection I desired.
The fear flooded me with guilt each Saturday when I was out on my long run and would see TMV out running together and enjoying each other’s company. Why couldn’t I do that?
I finally decided that I would no longer let my fears of joining the team and being a disappointment keep me alone. The team planned a special Pieces of Poverty exercise for its first half marathon run and I decided this would be the best time for me to join the group. In my mind, it was really now or never.
I wanted to do 18 miles this week, so I planned to run five to their meeting point and then run 13 with the team on this special exercise. I was scared thinking about trying to introduce myself to other people, but the stillness of Saturday morning and the peace of a quiet run calmed my nerves so much that when I saw the team, many wearing their TMV jerseys, I was excited.
We started with a little discussion about the Pieces of Poverty – five stops throughout the run, each depicting how clean water makes a difference in Kenyan villages that don’t have it – and then prayed, before dividing into our pace groups. I found mine and we set off.
A few weeks before I ran 16 miles on my own and it was a mind battle until the very last step. This, though, was different. I had new people to chat with and ask questions about TMV. I met people who were running their first marathon and people running their seventh. I met people who had seen the impact of World Vision firsthand and people who believed that they could do something small that could mean something big. I felt at ease in my pace group and welcomed by this community. I felt that sense of connection that I desired not just with other runners but with other humans who want to do some good in the world.
Our pace group encouraged our teammates as they passed us, but also other runners who were out trudging through their miles as well. It wasn’t just a group of people, but a team, a camaraderie.
It wasn’t the only time I’ve been supported this week, though. Slowly but surely I am raising the money for my $1,310 goal and this week I had three incredible people donate. That felt huge and not just for the cause but that people believed in me to give. They were cheering me on, too, just in a different way.
Marathon training is still lonely, but I feel a lot less lonely after this week’s runs. I am not doing this for me, and I am not doing it alone. All of that is reason enough to keep striving to raise my goal amount and to complete this marathon. I can’t fail because I have a net behind me in both my team and my supporters. I feel incredibly blessed.
10 weeks to go.